South Delta United is shuffling its line-up after welcoming back a familiar face following a three-year stint working for Soccer Canada.
Tsawwassen resident Stuart Neely has returned to the community soccer club where he will take over from Mark Rogers as technical director. Rogers will now focus on off-field duties as SDU’s general manager. Working alongside Neely will be Mike Frank as assistant technical director.
“I will be doing more in a management capacity,” explained Rogers, who served a number of years as technical director for Tsawwassen Soccer before the club merged with Ladner to form SDU back in 2016. “As GM I will be overseeing the operations and doing a lot of the behind the scenes work.”
Paving the way for the move was Neely’s desire to return full-time to B.C. after adding another chapter to his already impressive soccer resumé.
He served as Soccer Canada’s Manager of Coach Education which resulted in an overhaul of the country’s coaching curriculum. The 2018 appointment came after Neely had spent two years on SDU and Delta Coastal Selects’ technical staffs. His extensive career has also included positions with Ontario Soccer, Manitoba Soccer Association, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC, as well as in Belgium, England and New Zealand.
“When Canada Soccer came around it was kind of an opportunity to have an impact on a bigger picture across the country,” explained Neely. “Then it was realizing when we went through all that and made some massive changes culturally with the coaching education system, the impact COVID was having and that it was more important for me to find balance in what I was doing.
“Now I have the opportunity to make an impact locally and help that grow. I kind of had idea what Mark was trying to do and the people he had involved.”
Neely is looking forward to having Frank work alongside him. The Richmond native and his family moved out to South Delta nearly a decade ago and he began coaching his eldest son with the former Ladner Soccer Club. His involvement with community youth soccer has evolved since, leading up to his appointment.
“Mike had just kind of started getting involved when I was moving on to Soccer Canada,” recalled Neely. “I always had that envision of Mike working with the club and I was excited by that and knowing he has progressed and what he has been doing within the grassroots program. That was a deciding factor for me (coming back) as well knowing what had already been planted.”
Frank said working alongside Neely was a big part of agreeing to expand his role with SDU as he works the new position around his career as a Vancouver Firefighter.
“It is a bit of big role for me but knowing Stu is there and being able to work with him and learn from him is very exciting,” said Frank.
The two are anxious to get to work and will be ready regardless of what limitations still might be in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No youth soccer games have been played since further provincial health restrictions were implemented last November. There is hope for a much more normal season come September.
“You just have to roll with the punches,” said Neely. “The biggest challenge is making sure everything you are doing is positive and still a safe environment for the players and that they enjoy it.
“We are ambitious and don’t want to float through (the pandemic) but come out of this running.”